Ondhu Mottaye Kathe
Director: Raj B Shettty
Written and directed by and starring first-timer Raj B Shetty, this unique rom-com about a particularly "hair-raising" issue won a lot of hearts and almost as many awards. A falling-in-love story about a balding Kannada teacher and the lady he meets after a hilarious meet up, the film's subject went on to get remakes in Malayalam as Thamaasha and in Hindi as Ujda Chaman.
Starring Sruthi Hariharan and written by Sandhya Rani, the excellent Nathicharami gives us an insight into the life of a young widow and the pressures society puts on her to let go of all her desires with the passing away of her husband. Questioning the notion of patriarchy that rules the minds of even single women, the film takes us right into the lives of a handful of women from across class boundaries to show us how their stories are all the same.
Director: Raam Reddy
Set in Mandya, this National Award-winning drama deals with the theme of death and how it affects three people from across generations in the same family when the 100-year-old patriarch "Century Gowda" passes away. There's a lot of philosophy in Thithi too, as Gowda's son Gadappa wanders about the village, forging bonds.
Director: Pawan Kumar
When Rachana, an intern at a newspaper, finds that there's a story to be written about people causing accidents by removing concrete blocks from the road for an easier U Turn, she doesn't realise that she is going to be become an accused in a murder case. This thriller from the director who gave you the trippy Lucia, went on to get remade in all three other South Indian languages.
Director: Sachin Ravi
Written by actor-writer-director Rakshit Shetty and his team The Seven Odds, Avane... defies genres. It has a cowboy, a pub in the middle of nowhere, a treasure hunt, a clue that's steeped in poetry, an ancient drama troupe, and rival gangs out to get each other. And, there's uber cool policeman Narayana who locks horns with Lakshmi, the local journalist. Music by Ajanesh Loknath and Charan Raj is a huge plus.
Ammachi Yemba Nenapu
Director: Champa Shetty
Based on the play Aku, derived from three stories written by Sahitya Akademi winning writer Vaidehi, Ammachi Yemba Nenapu is about women, the bonds they forge, and the bondage they are tied to. Three women – Puttammatte, Akku and Ammachi – have been wronged by men, but find a reason to live.
Vyjayanti V Adiga plays the effervescent Ammachi, whose life looks like it's going to turn into a tragedy, but she bounces back and reclaims her life. Watch out for Radhakrishna Urala as Puttammatte.
Director: Hemanth Rao
Hemanth Rao's noir thriller takes off from the daily routine of a bored traffic police constable Shyam (a charming Rishi) who is desperately seeking a case that's more exciting than what he's used to. And when he discovers three skulls buried near his workplace, he gets exactly what he's looking for. He bonds with a former cop Muthanna (Anant Nag), and there are some life lessons along the way too.
Director: Senna Hegde
Katheyondu is like the gentle caress of the waves, soothing a tortoured soul. When Tanya (Pooja Devariya) lands on her honeymoon alone, you do think of Queen, but in minutes, you realise this film speaks a different language. Resort owner Tarun (Diganth) has his own past, and the two bond and, at some stage, the pain vanishes.
Director: KR Ashoka
One of the biggest hits of this lockdown period is Dia, a story about an introverted biotech student who falls in love with a boy in her college. But this tragic love story becomes more complex when it takes unexpected turns, and another person enters her life.
Director: Roopa Rao
A coming-of-age story narrated from the perspective of its female protagonist Teju (a lovely performance by Teju Belawadi), Gantumoote (meaning baggage), traces the events that unfurl in the life of a schoolgirl named Meera and her memories she has to deal with for long until she can move on.
Directors: Kiranraj K, Chandrajith Belliappa, Shashi Kumar P, Rahul PK, Karan Ananth, Jai Shankar, Jamadagni Manoj
The drama anthology was made as a tribute to the great Kannada filmmaker Puttanna Kanagal, and takes us through a wide range of characters, their lives and the emotions they're going through. Look out for Lachhavva.
Director: Rishab Shetty
This brilliantly-made college romance became an instant sensation, and turned Rakshit Shetty and Rashmika Mandanna instant sweethearts across the country. With beautiful songs and even better song picturisation, Kirik Party shows us Karna's transformation after a tragedy befalls him.
Director: Rakshit Shetty
Set in a small coastal village, this film uses the Rashomon Effect wonderfully to give us five versions of a murder involving a gangster named Richie, during the investigation of a journalist named Regina.
Director: Yograj Bhat
If rain films can be a genre, Mungaru Male will find top spot there. This film is awash in rain – it wipes tears, makes people smile, makes hearts bloom in love, and more. All this to the tune of some brilliant scores by Manomurthy. Preetham and Nandhini meet each other and fall in love. She's set to marry Gautham. And, there's a local boy Jaanu who's taken a wow he won't let anyone else marry Nandhini. This could have been a prosaic film, but the performances, music, the locales (Coorg!) and S Krishna's cinematography, and a rabbit called Devadas stole the audience hearts.
Sarkari Hi. Pra. Shale, Kasaragodu, Koduge: Ramanna Rai
Director: Rishab Shetty
The lone Kannada medium government school in the border district of Kasargode faces closure, and the children are distraught. They decide to do something to save their school and find a person to spearhead their struggle. There are two people by the same name, one of them an activist. The children land the wrong person (a brilliant Anant Nag) who comes to the village, and in a fiery speech in court, speaks of the importance of learning in one's mother tongue and makes a case against language supremacy. The children will make you smile and cry with them, as they go through life in the beautiful town of Kasargode.